Oligarch Open Thread: Koch Bros, Still Monsters

The Boston Globe:

“We’ve made more progress in the past five years than I had in the last 50,” declared Charles Koch, the 82-year old billionaire, addressing a group of about 550 donors who gathered in Indian Wells for the Kochs’ winter policy and politics weekend seminar.

But this era of gains, which brought them a massive tax cut, a queue of conservative federal judges, and an administration full of friendly regulators, could all be gone if Democrats claw back control of the government.

So the vast network has pledged to devote around $400 million toward politics and policy in the midterms to hold the GOP majorities in both chambers. That’s 60 percent more than the network spent in 2014, when Republicans picked up nine seats in the Senate and 13 seats in the House of Representatives.

The sum includes $20 million that Koch and his brother David plan to put behind efforts to popularize the $1.5 trillion tax cut. The network spent $20 million last year pushing the legislation.

“We have a ways to go,” said Koch, teeing up his Big Ask to the well-coiffed group of donors who contribute at least $100,000 a year to Koch-aligned groups. “So my challenge to all of us is to increase the scale and effectiveness of this network by an order of magnitude. By another 10-fold on top of all the growth and progress we’ve already made. Because if we do that, I’m convinced we can change the trajectory of this country.”…

Voters have been skeptical of the tax law in part because much of the benefit is focused on businesses like those run by the Kochs and their allies. The tax cuts directly benefit Koch Industries by $1 billion to $1.4 billion a year, according to a recent analysis from Americans for Tax Fairness, a liberal advocacy group.
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Thank You, Repubs Open Thread: Poster Boy for the GOP Tax Scam

All hail Dave Roth, who first introduced Political Twitter to this remarkable member of the Lucky Sperm Club…

Spin has some video:

The Post describes the Wyatt Ingraham signature aesthetic as “out-there patterns and colors” which is a charitable way of saying that these are the busy shirts a middle-manager who fancies himself the office comedian wears on casual Friday. The remarkable part of this vanity endeavor is the short video Koch produced to sell the brand, construct his own self-mythology, and peel the curtain back on his creative process. One of the video’s boldest choices entails a Koch heir sitting for his talking head interview wearing a shirt emblazoned with bags of money, as if that image alone couldn’t resurrect the guillotine.

“My father said to me, ‘Wyatt, you can do whatever you want to in life. Just make sure you do it well and do it with passion,” the designer said to the camera, without a hint of self-awareness. The sons of literal billionaires do typically get to do whatever they want in life. That’s the perk of being born into a Scrooge McDuck vault full of gold coins…

This guy so totally needed further protection from the estate tax. Hey, it’s not as though he were capable of surviving without a deep, deep cushion of daddy’s money…

What’s the lives and health of thousands of sick kids and poor people, compared to such visions of pure CLASS?

Late Night Creepshow Open Thread: Grifters Applaud Their Own

“United in Purpose” has an even lower profile than Ginni Thomas’ main grift, “Liberty Central”, whose main purpose seems to be keeping Ginni too busy to drunk-dial Anita Hill again. But if you assume UiP’s real purpose is to provide a conduit from “conservative” suckers with too much money to “activists” with more greed than sense…


The “heroes” honored by United for Purpose had to meet certain criteria laid out on the website for the Impact Awards. These are people who show “tenacity, courage and perseverance even under hostile attacks” and are “respected among their peers,” among other things. O’Keefe, who just made a fool of himself in an attempt to stick up for a sexual predator, apparently meets that criteria in the eyes of right-wing activists.
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Open Thread: Defending the DREAMers

This meets my criteria for the epitome of ‘mixed feelings’. Anything involving the Kochs, of course, needs to be critically examined for hidden pitfalls. On the other hand, if even these amoral monsters are standing up in defense of young people whose only crime was being born to the wrong parents… well, it is to be hoped that this indicates Steve Bannon, Steve Miller, and Rep. Steve King represent an extinction burst and not a successful revival of racism as a winning political tactic…

Spokespeople for the Koch network confirmed to The Daily Beast that it will press Congress for a legislative fix to the recently rescinded Obama-era program, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, that shielded undocumented immigrants who came to the country as children.

The Kochs’ backing could provide a crucial boost to efforts to preserve DACA, which Trump announced this week he will phase out over the course of six months. Congress has scrambled to find a replacement for those legal protections that are set to be removed. And Trump himself signaled early support for the DREAM Act, which would, essentially, codify the DACA protections that Obama had imposed via executive action…

With its formidable political and policy operation, the Koch network could provide more political cover to Republican members of Congress as they consider a replacement to the DACA program. Koch network alumni are sprinkled throughout Trump’s inner circle, and include White House director of legislative affairs Marc Short and Corey Lewandowski, the former Trump campaign manager who now advises a prominent independent political group supporting the president…

The Price of Everything and the Value of Nothing

While we focus on the various obvious bathetic catastrophes (from blowing secrets to the Russians to the big man’s collapsing in a heap after a mere one day on the road) committed by the shitgibbon and his band of merry (but never gay — oh no! not that) men, it’s important to keep at least some attention on the rolling, very real damage the Trump administration wreaks on a daily basis.

I’m so far behind on a book project that I can’t really keep up, and I certainly can’t blog with anything remotely resembling depth and insight, so I’m going to try instead to throw up quick posts as various bits of policy news cross my magpie’s field of vision.

This morning’s treat comes via a Saturday story in FTFNYT.*  Under Scott Pruitt, it seems, the EPA has become the Captain Renault of environmental regulators: everything has its price, and the Captain is always eager to make a deal:

Devon Energy, which runs the windswept site, had been prepared to install a sophisticated system to detect and reduce leaks of dangerous gases. It had also discussed paying a six-figure penalty to settle claims by the Obama administration that it was illegally emitting 80 tons each year of hazardous chemicals, like benzene, a known carcinogen.

But something changed in February just five days after Scott Pruitt, the former Oklahoma attorney general with close ties to Devon, was sworn in as the head of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Devon, in a letter dated Feb. 22 and obtained by The New York Times, said it was “re-evaluating its settlement posture.” It no longer intended to move ahead with the extensive emissions-control system, second-guessing the E.P.A.’s estimates on the size of the violation, and it was now willing to pay closer to $25,000 to end the three-year-old federal investigation.

The administration’s response?

The E.P.A. has not yet made a public response to Devon’s new posture, and Mr. Pruitt declined to comment for this article.

Want to bet on how it will turn out?

In just the last three months, with Mr. Pruitt in charge, the E.P.A. postponed a long-planned rule requiring companies like Devon to retrofit drilling equipment to prevent leaks of methane gas — a major contributor to climate change — and to collect more data on how much of the gas is spewing into the air.

The Interior Department, meanwhile, announced this month that it would reconsider a separate rule limiting the burning of unwanted methane gas from wells drilled on federal and Indian lands, a process called flaring. That announcement came the same day the Senate narrowly rejected industry calls to repeal the same rule.

Interior officials have also announced their intention to repeal or revise a contentious rule requiring companies like Devon to take extra steps to prevent groundwater contamination caused by hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, a drilling technique in which chemicals and water are forced into rock formations.

You get the idea. Pruitt has a history of working with Devon Energy; the administration has both a pro-extractive industry bias and powerful faction and the always reliable motive of f**king with anything that Obama accomplished.  Some of what the shitgibbon’s people aim to do can, no doubt, be delayed, obstructed, tied up.  Much, perhaps most will go through, at least over the next year or so, up until the pressures of the next election begin to bite.

So:  constant vigilance and trust no Republican. They’ll load up anything they can on anything they can, transferring public goods (clean air, clean water, anything not nailed down) to private hands.

Over to y’all.

*Publication of such stories  is why I continue to subscribe. Their political desk is…dodgy…but they still field more fine reporters than just about anywhere else I can think of. YM, as always, MV.

Image: Elihu Vedder, Corrupt Legislation, mural in the Library of Congress, 1896.

The Common Inheritance, The Common Defense

A bit of self promotion here, but I’ve got a piece in today’s Boston Globe that might be of interest to some here.

It’s a look at what the idea of the commons — not just the abstract, model commons of Garrett Hardin’s famous essay, but the historical commons as actually lived and used — can tell us about current problems.  The TL:DR is that commons are not inherently prone to tragedy, but that the preservation of communal goods requires…wait for it…communal action: regulation, self-regulation.

This is, of course, exactly what the Republican Party denies — more, loathes and condemns.  With Trump, they’re getting their way, but its vital to remember that the consequences that will flow from these decisions are not down to him, or simply so: the entire Republican power structure is eager to do this, and when we pay the price, we must remember who ran up the bill.

Anyway, here’s a taste from my piece.  Head on over to the Globe’s site if you want more.

The idea of the commons is deeply woven through the history of the English countryside. Shakespeare captured this idyllic approach to nature’s wealth in “As You Like It,” when the shepherd Corin explains to the cynic Touchstone the joys of his life. “I earn that I eat, get that I wear,” he says, adding that “the greatest of my pride is to see my ewes graze and my lambs suck” — in the unowned, readily shared Forest of Arden.

There can be trouble in such an Eden, as Hardin pointed out in an influential 1968 paper. Hardin asked what would happen if access to a commons were truly unfettered — if Corin and every other villager ran as many sheep as they could there. In such cases, Hardin argued, the endgame is obvious: Too many animals would eat too much fodder, leaving the ground bare, unable to support any livestock at all.

The evolution of resistance to antibiotics fits that story perfectly. The first modern bacteria-killing drug, penicillin, came into widespread use in 1944, as American laboratories raced to produce millions of doses in time for D-Day. The next year, its discoverer, Alexander Fleming, used his Nobel Prize lecture to describe precisely how this wonder drug could lose its power, telling the sad tale of a man who came down with a strep infection. In his tale, Mr. X didn’t finish his course of penicillin, and his surviving microbes, now “educated” (Fleming’s term), infected his wife. When her course of penicillin failed to eradicate these now-resistant microbes, Mrs. X died — killed, Fleming said, by her husband’s carelessness. It took just one more year for this fable to turn into fact: In 1946, four American soldiers came down with drug-resistant gonorrhea, the first such resistance on record.


Go on — check it out.  You want to hear about the great Charnwood Forest rabbit riot.  You know you do…

Image: Jacopo da Ponte, Sheep and Lambc. 1650.

Government, Meet Bathtub

It’s easy to run a government that does (next to) nothing.

Here’s where Trumpism — or really Pence-ism, or really, exactly what the GOP has been promising (threatening) will have its most immediate, and quite possibly its most damaging impact:

Staffers for the Trump transition team have been meeting with career staff at the White House ahead of Friday’s presidential inauguration to outline their plans for shrinking the federal bureaucracy, The Hill has learned.

The departments of Commerce and Energy would see major reductions in funding, with programs under their jurisdiction either being eliminated or transferred to other agencies. The departments of Transportation, Justice and State would see significant cuts and program eliminations.

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting would be privatized, while the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities would be eliminated entirely.

Overall, the blueprint being used by Trump’s team would reduce federal spending by $10.5 trillion over 10 years.

The NEH and NEA cuts are at once symbolic — the GOP is killing stuff liberals like, which is reward enough in those quarters — and, I think, intended to distract from other hugely reckless choices:

The Heritage blueprint used as a basis for Trump’s proposed cuts calls for eliminating several programs that conservatives label corporate welfare programs: the Minority Business Development Agency, the Economic Development Administration, the International Trade Administration and the Manufacturing Extension Partnership. The total savings from cutting these four programs would amount to nearly $900 million in 2017.

At the Department of Justice, the blueprint calls for eliminating the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, Violence Against Women Grants and the Legal Services Corporation and for reducing funding for its Civil Rights and its Environment and Natural Resources divisions.

At the Department of Energy, it would roll back funding for nuclear physics and advanced scientific computing research to 2008 levels, eliminate the Office of Electricity, eliminate the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and scrap the Office of Fossil Energy, which focuses on technologies to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

Under the State Department’s jurisdiction, funding for the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the Paris Climate Change Agreement and the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are candidates for elimination.

The single most important point I can make is that this is the Kansas-ification of America.  This isn’t a Trump policy choice.  This is Mike Pence shepherding plans the Republican Party has been trying to implement for years, decades even.  I doubt it will all get through, but much of it will, I’d guess, and when it does we will need to hang every shitty outcome and terrible choice around the neck of every Republican officeholder.

This is what they want. This is what they told us they wanted. They’re likely going to get it, to some approximation.  And they’re going to have to own it, so that once again, Democrats can come in and fix the serial catastrophes we’re going to witness very damn soon.

Also, too — who wants to bet all the pieties about the deficit and restoring balance to the budget will fall to the tax cuts to come?

Fuck it.  I’m heading back to the seventeenth century.

Image: Francesco de Rossi, Bathesheba at her Bath1552-1554.